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Sky News accused of faking Gulf report

Sky News said yesterday that it had suspended two members of staff over allegations to be made in a television documentary that it broadcast a fabricated report during the Iraq war.

The BBC2 documentary series Fighting the War will claim that Sky screened a faked report from the Gulf from a British nuclear submarine. Sky News said it had launched an investigation into the allegations.

It is understood that the programme, to be screened on Sunday, alleges that Sky News misrepresented the position of HMS Splendid as below the surface of the water and gave the impression that library material was current footage of the vessel firing a cruise missile.

In a statement, Nick Pollard, head of Sky News, said: "We are fiercely proud of our reputation for accuracy and integrity in our reporting. This allegation has come as a complete surprise and will be fully investigated."

The Sky News defence correspondent, James Forlong, and his producer have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

Mr Forlong travelled to the Gulf on board the American aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk as a pool reporter. He reported from several locations, and his dispatch from HMS Splendid on 29 Marchwas shown several times on Sky and by other broadcasters.

As a pooled report it would have been monitored by Ministry of Defence officials, who are not believed to have raised any objection to its content.

During the report, Mr Forlong said that the Splendid was "one of two Royal Navy submarines in the region". The report said the vessel's exact location was "classified" but it gave the impression that it was below the surface.

Mr Forlong said: "The nickname, the silent service, is well deserved, because despite all the coverage of this conflict, this is the first time that any cameras have been allowed on board any submarine, British or American, since the start of the war with Iraq."

He went on: "Also classified is the number of cruise missiles she has launched but on the opening day of the war, two American ships and two submarines, between them, fired a total of 50."